4 Ways to Protect Your Work-Life Balance This Year

Regardless of which resolutions you made this year, chances are maintaining a better work-life balance will make it easier to stick with them. Keeping up a gym routine, making more dinners at home, or being more engaged with your family, for example, all become many times more feasible if you’re not stuck in the office every night or constantly responding to work emails on the weekends. Even if you’re not a resolutions person, keeping a healthy balance is important for a number of reasons. These four tactics can help you create better work-life balance habits this year. 

1. Keep an open dialogue with your manager and colleagues

A new year can be a good time to reset—both outside of the office but also at work. If you’re hoping to swing your balance closer to “life” and away from “work”, have a conversation with your manager to let him or her know that you’re hoping to make some adjustments. 

Importantly, make sure they understand why this is important to you, and that you’re willing to do what it takes to ensure your output isn’t impacted. Position it as something that will actually make you better at work—because you’ll be more rested, happier, and less resentful when you do have to put in extra hours. 

It’s also a good idea to discuss this with colleagues you work closely with, particularly if they’re the ones who tend to make unreasonable demands. In addition, taking the initiative to maintain a better balance can help your whole team, as others will likely also consider whether they’re dedicating enough attention to their lives outside of work. 

Once you’ve had the initial chat, keep an open conversation about what’s working and what’s not: The last thing you want is for your manager or colleagues to secretly begrudge you without saying anything about it.

2. Pick your boundaries

As part of the conversation with your team, it’s a good idea to propose new boundaries which you believe will be most impactful. 

If you’re hoping to exercise over lunch, for example, ask your team to avoid scheduling meetings during that hour when possible. Perhaps you’d like to be more engaged with your family in the evenings: Let them know that you won’t respond to emails after a certain hour (but that you can be reached by phone if something is truly urgent). 

Remember to maintain a degree of flexibility: If one of your new boundaries is negatively impacting your work or your team’s ability to deliver, it’s your responsibility to recognise this and adjust accordingly. 

3. Avoid the sad desk lunch

No matter how busy you are, making a habit of eating lunch at your desk can actually result in lower levels of productivity, as your brain won’t get the break it needs to operate at a high level. You might assume that skipping lunch means you’ll finish earlier in the evening, but researchers claim that the “productivity refresh” provided by a lunch break actually boosts your brain power. 

In addition, eating at your desk can be damaging to your health, reversing the positive impacts of healthy initiatives (such as exercising or eating better) you make outside of work. To begin with, you’ll be more likely to overeat when you’re distractedly munching while responding to an email. More alarmingly, being sedentary and working long hours can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

Lastly, taking some time for lunch can be a good way to spend more time getting to know your colleagues, which can be not only enjoyable, but also beneficial to your career as it will help to expand your network

4. Commit to a new hobby

It can be easy for overachievers to promise themselves better work-life balance, but fail to maintain it when things get busy. Committing to a hobby is one way of getting around that, as it will put some structure around what “balance” actually means. 

Perhaps you take up a new type of exercise or sport, enroll in language classes, or join a book club. Your hobby can be whatever you’re interested in and makes you happy—as long as you commit to it by setting some time aside each week. 

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.